Project Launch at the Marx Memorial Library: Through An Artist’s Eye.

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(Photograph of Meirian Jump Library manager and archivist.)

SOME REVIEWS OF OUR CENTRAL LONDON LAUNCH LAST WEEK:

‘Through an Artist’s Eye’ is a brilliant use of visual arts and poetry to tell us more than can be read in conventional histories about the short but extraordinary life of Felicia Browne. Together, Sonia Boué and Jenny Rivarola demonstrate the power of art to fill those imaginative spaces and at the same time bring Felicia’s inspiring work and example to new audiences.”
Jim Jump, Journalist, Secretary of International Brigade Memorial Trust

“I should like to congratulate the instigators of this most inspiring evening. The film, the lecture by Professor Tom Buchanan, the works of art and the poems by Sonia Boue and Jenny Rivarola respectively did much to bring this heroic but largely unknown woman/artist to life. With the ghost of Lorca hovering in the background I had a most delightful experience. The final treat was the booklet of Sonia’s paintings and Jenny’s poems responding to the life of Felicia Browne to take home with me. I shall relish it.”
Joanna Graham

Through an Artist’s Eye: Felicia Browne and the Spanish Civil War, is a real eye-opener. Sonia Boué, visual artist and Jenny Rivarola, poet, both descendants of Spanish Republican exiles draw on their own personal experiences to bring back to life Felicia Browne, a woman ahead of her time who paid the ultimate price to stop fascism. Through a combination of paintings, poems and video, the two artists shed light on a remarkable life that for too long has been relegated to a footnote in history. This is vital work as relevant today as it was 80 years ago. I hope this is only the beginning of many more to come.
Ferran Nogueroles

 

THROUGH AN ARTIST´S EYE

The Rescue of Felicia Browne
Marx Memorial Library, Friday 30 September 2016

I had never heard of Felicia Browne, but the Instituto Cervantes´s newsletter advertised a series of events which grabbed my attention: who was this woman artist I had never heard of? why would two contemporary artists want to use her as a springboard for their own work? The mixture of the historic (the Spanish Civil War context, the International Brigades, the first foreign miliciana to die in combat just one month after the start of the war, in August 1936) and the contemporary (a collaborative visual and poetic project of two British artists both daughters of Republican exiles) was definitely the reason I went to the first event of the series, appropriately held at the Marx Memorial Library where the International Brigades Memorial Trust’s archives are based – I have not regretted it!

The historical Felicia, who turned out to be an artist of no great artistic importance per se, but whose short life (she died at 32), crisscrossed the private and public spaces, the personal and the group struggles of her time, allows and encourages a rich variety of readings. From an upper-middle class background, this Slade student evolved onto a committed Communist activist. It was extremely interesting to listen to Professor Tom Buchanan sketch of Browne’s life and the role of the archival material in Tate Britain and elsewhere which has rescued her from obscurity and is the backbone of the work produced by Sonia Boué and Jenny Rivarola.

During the evening, both artists gave a taste of their work in the form of a film and a reading of some of the poems, followed by a full Q&A session. They articulated clearly the aims and process of their collaborative project and I am now looking very much forward to reading the poems in front of the actual works which will be exhibited in Esher. I found particularly interesting how the work of Boué and Rivarola, by quoting directly from Browne, rescues and re-presents the dead woman´s life, art, and ideals (Boué makes striking use of some of her surviving charcoal drawings, placing them in an abstracted figurative landscape punctuated by objects which I am sure will be even more forceful in the flesh, whilst Rivarola lifts from Browne´s own words as found in her letters to construct a vital journey; she read some of the seven poems during the evening). In fact, the project seems like a triangular conjunction of realities, past and present, which I for one found intriguing and surprisingly resonant in our present historical moment: Felicia Browne resurfaces in the present through what appears to be a parallel artistic endeavour to her own, political and poetic, and where personal family memories are salvaged from all protagonists concerned.

Clarisa Rucabado Butler

OUR TASTER EVENT WILL BE ANOTHER CHANCE TO EXPERIENCE THIS PRESENTATION OF OUR WORK, AHEAD OF OUR EXHIBITION OPENING (see below)

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Exhibition news! From An Artist’s Eye.

Please watch this short video for all you need to know about our forthcoming events.

 

Through An Artist’s Eye: Felicia Browne and the Spanish Civil War – Events news!

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Studio shot by Philip King 2016

We’re nearing the finish line on the Artist’s Eye project. We’re delighted to announce that our free exhibition booklet will be available at all our events.

September 30th will see our  project LAUNCH  at the iconic Marx Memorial Library. An event rich in symbolism to open our tribute to Felicia Browne.

Programme: Welcome – Spanish wine & tentempié / Host – MML Archivist, Meirian Jump/ Origins of the project – Sonia Boué/ Talk – Prof Tom Buchanan (of Oxford University)/ Premier of our project film/ Short poetry reading – Jenny Rivarola

This will be followed by a introductory evening on October 6th at All Saints Kingston on Thames, i.e. TASTER EVENT  For local audiences and the wider public to learn more about the exhibition.

Programme: Welcome – Spanish wine  / Host – Historian, Liz Woolley – who will be in conversation with Prof Tom Buchanan (of Oxford University)/ Project film/ Short poetry reading – Jenny Rivarola/ Conclusion and thanks – Curator, Sarah Mossop

MAIN EVENT

Exhibition opens, October 8th, 12-2pm in All Saints Esher – PRIVATE VIEW – including refreshments and video installation.

The opportunity to see all works in situ – including 17 previously unseen drawings by Felicia Browne – and to meet artist and poet, Sonia Boué & Jenny Rivarola. 

 FREE ART & POETRY Workshops can be booked here.

All events are free but booking is especially recommended for the launch and for workshops as places are limited.

Our gratitude to Instituto Cervantes for hospitality.

Drafts & Sketches: progress in our responses to Felicia Browne

We are very excited to be trying out ideas in a small scale process exhibition at the Magdalen Rd Studios. This is part of our promise to the Arts Council. The aim is to receive feedback on our progress both from our peers and the public, and to develop our audiences.

In the two days it has taken to install the work we’ve already had some wonderful conversations with studio artists. It has also been a delight to work with our curator Sarah Mossop, whose input has inspired us to dig deeper on the detail of the presentation of the work.

There is a new piece on show, which relates to the border of memory. In the final show we work with the border as a geographical reality. In this piece (the assemblage piece shown below) I work with childhood association and attempt to intermingle Felicia’s infancy wth my own.

 

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Six Sketches & the Spanish Civil War

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Thames Ditton/Weston Green – beginnings.
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Berlin – the shadow of Nazism
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London – Scullion with the Red Wedge
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Paris – wandering savagely. Lion of Belfort.
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Barcelona (soldados de chupete)
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Tardienta – the bridge

This will be a brief visual blog. Our creative work has begun, and I’ve been busy in the studio on a series of six painted sketches, which have taken me by surprise. I’ve been wholly mesmerised by Felicia Browne’s visual journaling (as I call it) and thought to respond to her sketches by abstracting her line rather than working figuratively – as I am an abstract artist myself. However, Felicia has had a profound influence on me, and in my conversation with her work, mine has become altered. Our styles have combined to create a series of images, which plot her political trajectory, which we know is what led her to Spain, during that fateful July of 1936.

I don’t know yet if this development will continue in the seven larger works which will form my contribution to the our final exhibition. These six smaller paintings are process works to be shown for peer evaluation at my studios.

Each image borrows from Felicia’s sketchbooks, and from her letters – but there is also a personal take. My collaborator, Jenny Rivarola and myself, both had fathers in the Republican army, Jenny’s father was a “soldado de chupete” (the so called soldiers with a dummies – due to their young age) and my father was a journalist with a tank regiment.

I will be adding a seventh painting to “describe” the border between France and Spain – the snaking pressure point for the Retirada of 1939, but also the entry point for Felicia and her travelling companion Edith Bone, in 1936.

Felicia Browne:The Sleepy Birthplace of a Radical.

Yesterday we journeyed to the sleepy and rather beautiful suburban village of Thames Ditton. This was the birthplace of our subject and inspiration Felicia Browne, whose beginnings lay in stark contrast with her tragic and violent death on the Aragon front in 1936, aged just 32. The blue plaque’s just kept coming at us as we wound our way around the village in our mission to learn more about Felicia’s origins, and make pathways for the dissemination of our eventual responses to her story. In short, we’ve been looking for symbolic venues for our tribute. We are beginning to think very much in terms of bringing the history home.

An important element of our work in this project is to consider the intersecting of two cultures whose histories became entwined through the Spanish conflict. As we cast a careful eye over our surroundings and basked in the warmest of welcomes at each turn, we imagined also Thames Ditton through a Spanish exile’s eyes while bearing in mind Felicia’s experience both as artist, and briefly as a combatant in Spain. How sleepy and quaint Thames Ditton would have seemed in comparison to the chaos and excitement of Barcelona in 1936.

Striking  also was the blue plaque on the house Felicia was born in. A previous history of combat is celebrated in the name of General Sir John Lambert 1772-1847, “Distinguished Commander of the 10th Brigade at the Battle of Waterloo (1815)” who lived there too. I can’t help feeling that this smart blue disc of recognition should be joined by another, in acknowledgement of Felicia’s unique place in history.

We’ll be writing shortly about exciting developments regarding venue/s and a programme of events for the project. Meanwhile some tantalising shots of the house we fell in love with, The Elms, Felicia’s family home up until 1908.

 

The Beret as a Symbol of the Spanish Civil War.

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The Basque beret arrived! The perils of eBay mean that it is child sized. The beauty of metaphor – and the deep resonance that begins to form when your research is expansive – is that this becomes intensely meaningful in terms of the exile of almost 4,000 Basque children to England in May of 1937. This as a result of voluntary efforts to save the lives of Basque children after the massacre at Guernica. Many children were killed in the war against fascism, which took the life of Felicia Browne in August 1936. Felicia’s commitment to anti-fascism, her reportage in drawing  ordinary working people in their Basque berets and the efforts to save the Basque children are all intimately connected.